There’s always an opportunity that comes with every crisis: Rubeena Singh

In this edition of 'Beating All Odds', Rubeena Singh, CEO, iProspect, speaks to exchange4media Editor Naziya Alvi Rahman

e4m by Naziya Alvi Rahman
Updated: Apr 17, 2020 8:26 AM
Beating All Odds

With COVID-19 confining us to our homes for another three weeks. These are very difficult times to run our businesses. In our special series – ‘Beating All Odds’ – we are bringing to you leaders who can help us navigate our way through these difficult times.

In today’s edition, we speak to Rubeena Singh, CEO, iProspect about how she has been dealing with these difficult times.

What is the kind of impact that the lockdown has had on your business?
The impact has been massive. It cae in suddenly. It is something unprecedented. We had never imagined this would happen. But the fact of the matter is — for a lot of our clients the supply chains have been broken. They're not able to reach out to the customers and there are no footfalls in their stores.
Businesses have been impacted at large because of which there is an obvious impact on the business that we run at iProspect that is digital marketing. We help our clients with their digital marketing efforts.

Therefore yes, there has been an impact but we are quickly working on areas where we think we can help clients. We are trying to simultaneously see how we can pivot our business into other areas where there could be an opportunity. That's how we are dealing with the lockdown.

We are trying to help our current clients in the best of our ability because they are our foremost priority at this point. We understand that there is a lot of uncertainty and anxiety among them too as routines have disappeared. There is a feeling of apprehension. In general, the 24-hour news reports that we consume are also leading to a lot of anxiety and fear for our businesses. Therefore, I think what is most important for us, is to be able to give them at least some amount of reliability for the work that they depend on us for. We are ensuring that what we deliver to them is done on time and correctly. There are daily updates and connections happening with clients along with weekly meetings and calls. The fact of the matter is that because we're not able to do face-to-face meetings which we otherwise do, we're trying to see how we can stay connected by using calls, or video calls, effectively.

We, at iProspect, are trying to get into another area of business. We all know that while there has been a significant impact on our businesses, there's always an opportunity that comes with every crisis. That's what I really believe. The opportunity that has come to us is that - most people have a lot of time on hand currently. And time can be best utilized in learning something. Today, digital has become the centre of our lives - whether it's for connecting with friends and family or with the world at large. It is also helping us as professionals by giving us the flexibility to work from home, and for businesses it's perhaps the easiest way to connect with the customers.

At iProspect, we are building a programme which will help build a stronger digital ecosystem by sharing knowledge and providing insights that we have got while working with real-world problems of our clients. We're doing this in the form of holding educational webinars, which we kicked off last week, and were the first ones on paid media. As we speak, we are doing one tomorrow as well. We got a fantastic response on the webinar that we did last week, and the plan is to continue it into different models. We started with the beginner model, but we as we go forward, we'll get into intermediate and pro as well. And hopefully, as things go back to normalcy we plan to start another perhaps education vertical within the iProspect trend.

How are you keeping the morale of the employees high?
These are very uncertain times and people are bound to feel sad, scared or stressed at different points in time. What we are trying to do is keep the morale of the employees high. We are celebrating contributions, whether small or big. I think just recognizing and appreciating the great work that's coming through is the most simple, cost-effective and direct way to boost their morale. In our offices, we have a lot of water cooler conversations. Currently, we are all feeling a bit isolated and therefore uncertain on what is really going to happen. We are actually trying to make a conscious effort to start chatting with our colleagues frequently. We have started catching up on their day as friends, not just for work, but beyond work as well. We are trying to connect on phone calls, but more importantly, we are also trying to do a lot of video calls. All of us are pretty excited to see each other. We took it for granted that we would be with each other for most of our waking hours. But now we understand the importance of it and how much joy that brings to us. Therefore, now we try to stay connected.

We're trying to continue the culture that we had at work in whatever small ways that we can. For instance, at iProspect, we have this tradition of fun Fridays. It was time to unwind together at the office. We believed that it helped us create better relationships at work and resolve issues we may have had during the week with our colleagues. It would generally lower stress levels and create that happy atmosphere in the office. We use to just hang out as friends. We were missing that a lot and so we did a video call last to last Friday with the whole iProspect team just to say hello as friends and to chat. It was good to see everybody. I can tell you it was a really energizing experience. I could see the productivity of the team going up by the sheer number of WhatsApp messages that started happening between our internal groups and client groups. So, we are doing small things like that.

I know at the DAN level, too, the HR team is doing a great job. They are encouraging us to invest that time into our hobbies and passions. We are holding an internal show called DAN's Got Talent. But more importantly, we also understand that the pressures and stress levels some of us are facing because of the restricted environment that we're currently operating under could be immense. While we are talking to friends, family, people we trust in general for help, at an organisational level too we have to do something to help employees cope with the stress. We are planning a wellness programme. The first session has been scheduled with a sound healer. She's a wholesome life coach and uses energy healing through sound instruments for spontaneous relaxation and meditation. These are some of the initiatives that we're doing to keep the environment positive and lift the morale of our team members.

You have a lot of BSFI clients and it is one sector that’s still very active. How are you handling your clients from this particular sector?
We’re fortunate that our portfolio has been always dominant with BFSI and these are essentially services. Banks are still open and they are functioning as normal. If we look at insurance, the searches for health insurance and life insurance are actually increasing in times of this crisis. Therefore, yes this sector has not been impacted as much by the current crisis vis-a-vis some of the others like in travel, hospitality and e-commerce. There are relevant contextual opportunities and we are working with our clients on them.

You also have clients from the tourism industry, what are you doing with them?
To be honest, we've not been very heavy on that category. We have a couple of them, and I think clients are also being sensitive. We are also sensitizing them on how the consumer behaviour is at the moment, what is the mood, and how that information will be palatable. Some very interesting campaigns have been designed with very relevant communication to be able to stay connected with the customers. I understand this is a situation which is very difficult but we're all hopeful that at some point in time we will get past this. At that point we don't want to be completely not in touch with the customers. Therefore, while it can be less than usual business it is important for brands to stay interconnected with customers, especially on digital.

Today, the maximum time spent is on digital media and there are various reports that suggest that consumption on digital media has gone through the roof. There is an opportunity for clients to be able to stay connected with their customers through the digital media at prices which are far more economical today because of the demand-supply situation vis-a-vis what it was six weeks ago.

Do you see a permanent change in consumer behaviour once the lockdown is lifted?
Definitely. I think there is going to be a huge change in consumer behaviour after this lockdown. Digital was always centrepiece and the consumers and the users were always there. But marketers didn't leverage this medium to its fullest. Today, because of the business situation they're realising that this is becoming a medium which is going to be far more effective in reaching out to customers directly. To give an analogy, everybody knows that for working women life is difficult. Balancing between work and family is difficult. But today, when people see women working at home, cooking, looking after families, and also managing their work they are able to understand the situation better.
Similarly, marketers always knew that digital has become the centrepiece and it is where all the customers are. Today’s situation has forced them to use it effectively as a medium and deliver their messages, which are not just about acquiring customers but also top funnel objectives.

How much growth do you think will we see in consumption patterns of digital after this lockdown?
I think it's hard to make any guesses right now, but I definitely see that there is going to be a positive impact on the digital channels for sure. From a customer's point of view, they're going to use it even more. Currently, if they want anything they are trying digital medium. I think they are adopting it much faster not just for consumption of media but transactions as well. From that point of view of businesses too, the consumption will increase. As the Prime Minister said lockdown is going to be released in steps. I don't think people will immediately go back to the normal behaviour of getting out to the stores as quickly. It is going to take some time to get back to normalcy. In that time, I think both customers and marketers will leverage this hugely effective medium. I know it's definitely going to be a big positive swing. Putting numbers to it at this point in time is going to be a very hard task.

Any advices for the youngsters entering the industry?
I have always believed that every cloud has a silver lining, and there is some opportunity in every adversity. See the brighter side of things, invest in learning, see where the opportunities are and build on it. I think, those of us who are in the digital space are still better off than many other people because this is a space less impacted than some of the other mediums like Out Of Home (OOH) or events. Stay positive, stay focused, invest in learning, invest this time in thinking through new ideas, finding new opportunities, build on them and stay positive.

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